Category: One Stone

“In a fair world, Rafe, nothing like us would ever be necessary. But we live in a very unfair world indeed.”

One Stone was a weekly webserial telling the story of two people in the wealthiest city in the world whose only seeming common ground is that they’re both very good at killing people. Around them politics, conspiracy, crime and war unfold. Follow the story of Lady Aderyn DuThane, the best Assassin and Rafe, the worst murderer, as they strike out against corrupt nobles, scheming idealogues, criminal masterminds and the unfairness of their very unfair world.

You can download One Stone as an EPUB or PDF!

One Stone, Chapter 26

The houseboat rumbled on, dreadful and low, through the thick grey waters of the The River. On the forward flat deck, his hands on his hips, Luke Cornell looked down at the little bird he’d captured.

The Priest was not a small man. There was a decently large amount of Brother Fratarelli, all swelled out in a circle shape. But he was not a tall man, and his weight was not the kind that implied threat. The handful of men around him weren’t particularly threatening, in and of themselves, but Luke Cornell made the height difference between the two feel like he was looking up a mountainside. Swallowing, Brother Fratarelli folded his hands into his robe. “Ah, so, uh, Mister Cornell… you wanted confessional, yes? That is something we should… we should probably do somewhere private.”

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One Stone Revamp!

Alright, people, One Stone has been revised! The story is now structured to be more easy to read, with a button for continuing to read the next section! I’m considering adding a characters/world map page if you think those would be useful. I really hope that if you were considering trying it out, this makes it easier for you to read the next section. If you’ve any suggestions or requests for ways I can improve your reading experience, I would love to hear them!

One Stone, Chapter 23

Far from the The River – well, far as could be considered for a man like Brother Fratarelli who could get puffed out walking upstairs – in the cold little dining room, the Brother and the Knight sat, looking at a spread of papers between them. The paper was uniform little white stacks, pinned together at the corners with a needle, then the needles tied together delicately with twine.

“Even details of the conversation. The types of cigarettes they were smoking – and look here, she’s even provided a description of the Black King’s Crown. Why would you even bother with that? I mean, if it meant something, I’m sure I could have looked it up.”

“It’s an old wives’ tale.”

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One Stone, Chapter 22

When Rafe had told her they were meeting his mother – or rather, Mama – it had given Aderyn some expectations. Rafe was after all, an urchin of some variety – she’d actually thought him an orphan at first, given the way he’d fallen easily to crime of such brutal stripes at such a young age. Orphans were very dramatic, after all, and Rafe had all the makings about him of a usefully dramatic young man. Perhaps he’d lead her to a quiet corner of the city, where a narrow doorway led up stairs to a tiny little home in which she’d find poor but honest people, clenching their fists to keep warm. That seemed most appropriate, given Rafe. He had that streak of honesty about him, the sign of some humble beginning. Perhaps the tables would be soaped down, but the children wouldn’t be.

Aderyn was not expecting Mama’s.

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One Stone: Revisions

Ughhhhh.

I found a bunch of errors in One Stone. I don’t mean necessarily little things I can roll with, like who stood where, or mistranslated names. No, I found errors like the names of several countries changing, and a character’s physical description being wrong.

I am probably going to go through the older posts and try to correct them if it’s a simple matter of find-replace. I use a macro to HTMLise the working document as it is, which might work out okay. I think in addition to this, given that I’m approaching the half-way point in the book, that I’ll start offering an epub version of the book for anyone who wants to ‘catch up’, or maybe try something with the archive to make it all flow together nicer.

Either way, I think I just made myself more work, fixing my own screwup!

(Bacon.)

One Stone, Chapter 21

The river’s name, at its head, was Beagnaoth, a deference to the bloody battles fought for its source by old tribes, where a length of iron the breadth of a man’s wrist, forged in ashen fires, could constitute a weapon of mass destruction. Towards the mouth where it kissed the Strait between Gallia and Tiber, it was known as The Scramasax, a reference to that window of time when boats were crafted on the river to be loosed onto the Gallian shore like arrows from a bow. Along the way, there had been attempts to name it by the nearest landmark, from back when those landmarks were new ideas, so there were straits of its wending way known as the Ironwall Heft, the Tower Strait, the Benjamin, and most bafflingly, The Deep Wet. None of the names had stuck except amongst the people who considered themselves elite for knowing something nobody else knew. To the million names and faces that lived walking distance from it, the River was simply The River. It had become such a common thing that modern maps often just labelled that wriggly expanse as The.

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One Stone, Chapter 20

Rafe was still completely uncertain as to what, exactly, he was doing at the church. The first few days he’d slept at the church, which had been, in his mind, crashing. There were occasional errands with the fully-armoured Kivis, too, which could mark one or two days in the time since the Praefoco job. The most recent morning, though, he’d woken up, rubbed his hand through his hair, looked up at the bars – bars he’d grown used to – and realised he had been sleeping in this same room, doing minor jobs and staying hidden inside the church for four weeks. Whole days melted away underneath the glossy sun that shone through the high windows of the church, and while it certainly was better than the prison cell life, and the food – bread and water – was at least less likely to be spat in, he was still tethered to the same bed, and slept behind bars.

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One Stone, Chapter 19

An empire’s span away, Rafe leant back against the steeple of the church. Up on the rooftops of Timoritia, you could see the world differently. You didn’t have to walk on cobblestones with muck in between them. There weren’t any shoving and squalling people, reminding you that they didn’t care about anything in the world but whatever was going on in their lives. You could see the city as a city, with its structures all built together, the way the roofing changed colour at a certain point as mark of historical development. You could hear the train and the people roaring, but not any of the individual sounds.

Rafe really hated individual sounds. It was like children playing. It always sounded innocent and sweet, he’d been told – there were popular poems and songs that spoke of those things. Thing is, if you ever stopped to listen to the words the children said, you’d hear now you hold his arms down.

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One Stone, Chapter 18

Vince, as an engineer, enjoyed the auspicious rank of Lieutenant, which was more of a liability on the front where a sudden and abrupt interruption in the chain of command might have put him in the position of authority over people whose primary interest was not finely designed clockwork but rather putting holes in foreigners, often at range. For the most part, life on the front had been a hectic scrabble to always ensure that in the eternal game of one upmanship that was military rank, he was always losing no matter the room he was in. Travelling with a General was therefore a breathtaking opportunity to attempt relaxing, even if the man tended to eat with his hands and spit bones out at things.

They’d received the message six weeks ago. Six weeks! The first two weeks had been simple, hard riding through the web of interconnected bases and trenches that stretched across the Holy Land between Tiberan cities, and it had, for the best part, been quiet. They were all soldiers here, and when they made it to each new station, the General’s momentum just sped them along. Vince was familiar with military acquisitions – the way the general walked into a way station, demanded water, food to eat on the move, and fresh horses made him inwardly turn green. He’d waited six months once for a new screwdriver.

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One Stone, Chapter 17

The rooftops of Timoritia were a fine place to watch a rising sun. Off the main streets, towards the river that ran through the city, you could raise your head, and see nothing but the clouds, reflecting from below the bright warm colours of a day that, if Rafe understood it right, had come from a part of the world where maybe things were a bit brighter. Knees up against his chest, feet flat on the slope of the roof, his elbows resting on his knees, cheek on his arms, the worst murderer in Timoritia kept circling a question in his mind.

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One Stone, Chapter 16

Cameo Tully wasn’t, in his own mind, a bad man. Almost nobody who went to a school that taught you how to kill a man could be. There were certain mental gymnastics that required you to take on a different outlook. Tully’s father had trained at the Assassins for two years, after all, although the senior Tully had not ever completed the final exams. A little fee could often waive those tedious components of the education. In his own days, Tully had been a bully, no less, taking to the fencing classes and the knife use with a dignified pride, feeling the importance of his family station protecting him. Oh, Cameo – ‘Cammers’ – had never had to be the sort of boy who ran to hide behind his father’s name, no. Those were the little bullies, the ones who kicked and punched and shouted because they cried themselves to sleep at night.

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One Stone, Chapter 15

From the ground, all clouds fly the same. Sage, homespun wisdom from the grassy fields and endlessly sodden skies of Lleywa. It rang in Aderyn’s mind as she stepped downstairs, moving light and easy, a simple plucked flower from a passed vase tucked behind one ear all it took to transform her work clothes to unfashionable party wear in the eyes of people who were not well-versed in the utility represented by a double-buckled belt. It was wisdom that Aderyn had felt it unwise to impart upon Rafe, in no small part because he seemed resistant to wisdom of all stripes, but also because she imagined him giving her an unutterably pained look at her wealthy plights. Perhaps he’d run a fingertip down his cheek and exaggeratedly pout.

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One Stone, Chapter 14

Why had she mentioned that the man was a father?

That thought nagged at Rafe in a very non-specific way. Since she’d thrown herself off a rooftop and popped a window with more care than he would have, he’d been re-evaluating what he thought of the gi-the young la-the woman.

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One Stone, Chapter 13

The snib – and Aderyn really did like that word, she would have to remember it for the future – yielded easily. Since she’d moved first and slid across the wall, her hands gripping the wood, Aderyn neatly blocked Rafe from whatever method he had been planning to use on the window. Instead it was subject to her open palm pressing to the glass, fingers spreading wide and applying pressure in as even a fashion as possible. Tripwires and wax were common in defensive positions – but defensive positions didn’t have damaged snibs. Instead, putting her weight on the tips of toes that were holding on an edge maybe three cims, she leant forwards, into her hand, and raised it up. The damaged snib was maybe half-broken, only sitting against the groove, rather than sunk down into it, and that pressure lifted the little catch just a far enough that it caught against the wood. The mechanism resisted, it adjusted… then snapped open.

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One Stone, Chapter 12

Buildings in Timoritia were built in classic Tiber style, because they defined classic Tiber style. Enough wealth sluiced around in the city’s pockets that when a trend happened, whole districts could change character for a generation, such as that fad for thick white plaster interspersed with black wood. Aderyn always loved those houses. They were pretty, and expansive, and had sloped rooves and handholds all over them, and they were designed to try and emulate a style of the nobility four hundred years gone, with only impressions and ideas. The modern throwing on a cloak of the past – it was so very Timoritian, to Aderyn’s eye. Now the row of Tudor homes around the town-house estate mirrored it. They were nice houses, but the Praefoco estate was nicer.

Once, it had been owned by a baron, who had lost it to a lawyer, who had lost it to his own mortality, and the valuable property still showed the signs, under its nouveaux riche aspirations. There were spines at the windowsills to discourage climbing, hardy metal juts that sat on the edges of the rooftop like a crown of thorns. It was another contrast with those houses around it – they had balconies and windows and shutters – but they didn’t have bars on those windows, didn’t have hard metal frames on their balconies with thick glass to keep even the sound of the city from touching its owner.

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One Stone, Chapter 11

The city Timoritia hosted dozens of churches, from the great and old Cathedrals that studded the walls of the Old City, down to the tiny halls where the Sandmen washed one another’s feet. There were large churches and small churches, and rich churches and poor churches, and it was really just coincidence and the providence of God that meant most of the poor churches tended to be small, and also in areas where a walk home too late after evensong might result in an impromptu withdrawl from the Bank of Your Wallet and a deposit in the Bump On The Back Of Your Head account. The rich churches just coincidentally were in on the wide open streets by the wealthy portions of town, with lamps that rarely went unlit and where guards just happened to like patrolling more. Maybe guards liked churches. Maybe that was it.

The richer churches just happened to belong to the factions of the church that espoused ideas like social order, the way God rewarded the worthy, the importance of destiny, and of God’s plan for people’s lives. The poorer churches spoke some of things like charity and peacefulness and again, God’s plan, but with a little more hopelessness when they said it.

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One Stone, Chapter 10

With the meeting concluded, Marko sat on the bench in the kitchen. Even while his mind whirled with what he’d been asked, he sat stoically and watched Wardell weave his way between class barriers and brew tea.

“So you don’t actually know who any of them are?” Marko asked, his elbows on the table, hands tucked into his elbows. Outside, rain sheeted down, but here in the town house, with its high roof and second storey, it just sounded as a muffled march of owls somewhere above.

“Well, even if I did, Fiver, is it really my place to say?”

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One Stone, Chapter 9

Terry stood out by the windy corner of the Cathedral, idly turning a water-butt and examining it as if for cracks. The still surface of the water gave him a mirror to watch the rooftops closest to the Guild, and his position on the ground, checking around him from time to time, gave him a clear view of the other route from the school. Finding the student was never hard – they didn’t have to hide on the way to the area, and because students were students, they didn’t. Instead they’d put in no effort on the way into the zone, then infinite effort once they were there.

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One Stone, Chapter 8

The Assassins’ Guild was an old institution, and with that age came a certain implied respect. Old families could trace their lineage and find in far points in history, famous names that even then, attended the Old School, and learned how to avoid poisons and knives there. Nobility was much like pixie dust, scattering in the path of those who had it, touching everything around them and making things they used a little bit more special. Other schools had teachers; the Assassins’ Guild had Teachers, but it also had Examiners and Beadles and Invigilators.

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One Stone, Chapter 7

Brother Fratarelli had only ministered to a few in Draftfane. Every time, though, he’d brought his chess set, a lovely collection of softwood pieces that had worn finger marks and damaged velvet; too fragile to use as anything but as a game set, something that never worried a warden. It served to occupy the hands, and focus the mind. Hard to keep secrets when you were looking at a game; harder to act innocent when you avoided a simple game to pass the time. Boredom set up his partners, and the game showed who they truly were.

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One Stone, Chapter 6

There’s a peculiar kind of corkscrew brain that enjoys studying for an exam. You have to be able to sink into the words and the concepts, touching on things you already know to be true, and feel some sort of satisfaction as you reconnect them to your memory. It’s also important to maintain the illusion that information for passing the test is for some higher purpose than just passing the test – a lie that most people who experience exams fail to internalise. For Aderyn DuThane, the experience was further amplified in its enjoyment by an adulation of teasing her bunkmate.

Lady Quynn Lyzbyth Wyndsr had a heritage that spoke of nothing but the finest of china and the most polite, mannerly behaviour. Wyndsr Estates were extensive and reached from the northern edge of Hadrian all the way down to the heart of Timoritia. Compared to Aderyn – whose family owned what was, ultimately, a farming valley near a highway – she was practically royal. She’d have deserved a shot at the throne, really, if not for the unfortunate dalliance with The Wrong Religion a few generations back that had rendered her legally dead, or that she was technically both a Dulf and a Chilver by several removed relations – at least one of whom had been removed around the neck height and quite publically, at that.

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One Stone, Chapter 5

The Vox Coronate, the Voice of the King, stood in authority over the city of Timoritia. It was not literally the orders of the king, but words written and given the authority as if the king had said it. An office originally founded during times of war, the Vox Coronate was designed to allow military orders to be issued to deal with political threats represented by generals. No general liked orders from Vox Coronate – they spoke either of a king trying to oversee strategy without awareness, or a member of the noble class with ambition.

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One Stone, Chapter 4

The city of Timoritia was no island. It was on an island, but a very big island, an island so large it had multiple countries on it. Timoritia was the capital city of the Kingdom of Tiber, which was itself the prime nation on the Island of Arat. Arat had, depending on the weather, at least two other countries within its borders, including the ever-rainy Llewya to the western coast, and the eternal warfront of Hadrian to the north. Technically, there were other small principalities, baronies, and remote kingdoms on the main island, but as time had moved on, all but the most active of revolutionaries had accepted the local word for ‘king’ just meant the same thing as the Tiberan word for ‘baron,’ lest it suddenly come to mean the same thing as the Tiberan word for ‘target.’

But Tiber did not end at the edge of the island! For across both sides of Tiber’s shores there were islands whose people sent coin back to Timoritia. They held docks, where ships broke harbour and made for the wide and open lands of other nations, claimed and constructed in the wilderness in the name of Tiber!

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One Stone, Chapter 3

Draftfane prison, known by the guards as The Fane, stood in the outskirts of Timoritia’s central districts, built in part out of the walls that had once been the border between the city and the surrounding landscape. Three storeys tall and one storey deep into the ground, the stone held no windows, shared no sound, and had no neighbours proud of where they lived. The prisoners in Draftfane were thrown in cells and given food regularly enough to ensure that they didn’t die.

Draftfane was a place you dropped people when you had no intention of ever pulling them out again.

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One Stone, Chapter 2

Beautiful young women were in style in Timoritia these days, continuing a trend of some six hundred years. Oh, beautiful had always moved around a little. Some years, beautiful meant tall and thin and gaunt, and coincidentally, when the plague struck, those traits were seen as very much not beautiful any more. Beautiful these days typically meant possessing skin that was smooth and uniform in its colour and texture, ideally a paler colour (not that there was anything wrong with those people with dark skin, per se, no, we just don’t like them quite so much around here, and it’ll be better for everyone if they keep to themselves, let me tell you,) with some form of long hair that was elaborate enough to serve as a canvas for clear effort, but not a sign of too much effort. After all, a young woman who spent too much time on her hair clearly thought a bit too much of herself, and we can’t be having that.

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One Stone, Chapter 1

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood

It rains on nights like these; in part, as a matter of good taste, and in part because it’s always raining in Lleywa. When it isn’t raining, it’s drizzling; when neither raining nor drizzling, it opts to storm; when storm, rain and drizzle aren’t an option, in the depths of winter, it makes to sleet. It is a nation without a winter, its people proudly proclaim, unless you count the sixteen or so hours during which it grows cold enough to snow and the rain gets out of the way. Similarly, it’s a nation without much of a summer, either. Whether out of habit or for dramatic purpose, though, it rained on this night, on the mountain passes of Lleywa.

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What Is ‘One Stone?’

Did you read my Nanowrimo novel, Immortal Engine? A story set in a patchwork fantasy kingdom, with firearms, mechanised knights, alchemical superpowers, an oppressive church and freaking dinosaurs, the story was lauded with such sterling praise as It Was Better Than I Expected, and At No Point Reading It, Did I Want To Stop.

Do you like stories about stylish assassins, scrappy badasses, repentant priests, inheritance, backstabbing political families, confused allgeiances, the rise of a king, the swaying of a crowd, and the many interesting ways in which a person can be killed?

Do you want to hear the story of General Yull Bachthane, the Roaring Lion and his campaign against the enemies of Timotiria? Do you want to hear the story of the city of Timotiria, the Kingless State and centerpiece of the many noble families, from the four major families of Chilver, Dulf, Rangst and Gorange? Do you want to hear the story of Aderyn Dulthane, a minor noblewoman from a tiny little corner of the rainiest kingdom under Timotiria’s control, who’s just a day or two away from graduating from her finishing exams at the Guild Of Assassins? Do you want to hear the story about Raff, known to the people of the prison where he’s found as The Worst Murderer In Timotiria? Are you interested in language puns and seeing me massively overusing thematic imagery?

The schedule is planned for a chapter every week.

Hope you’ll read along!